As the staggered Uttar Pradesh assembly election heads for the sixth and penultimate phase May 3, the number of contestants with criminal background is only going up.
Against 115 alleged outlaws in the fifth phase April 28, the next phase on Thursday has 138 such people out of the 785 candidates in the fray for 52 seats across nine districts, largely in the state's eastern part.
The ruling Samajwadi Party again tops the list with 19 'shady' characters, followed by the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) with 16, Congress (14) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with 12. The rest are independents.
According to a study by Election Watch, an NGO headed by retired director general of police IC Dwivedi, the assembly election of 2002 had a total of 506 contestants with criminal antecedents.
"Significantly, however, 206 of these won the election," said Dwivedi.
Speaking of Thursday's poll, he said that of the 25 contestants for Soraon constituency in Allahabad district, 11 were mired in serious criminal charges, making this the most criminal infested seat in the state.
"Such is the state of Allahabad that produced great freedom fighters and intellectuals in the past," he said.
The ancient Hindu city of Varanasi is the next in line with eight such people in the fray.
Among the constituencies with at least four criminals are: Allahabad (West), Varanasi Cantt, Varanasi South, Varanasi North, Mughalaarai, Gyanpur, Majhwa, Dildarnagar and Bara.
Election Watch has called for a "red alert" in each of these constituencies.
It has also drawn up a chart of the top 10 contestants with pending criminal cases.
These include Sushil Kumar of BSP (25 cases), Chotelal Vishwakarma of Rashtriya Lok Dal (24), Suheldeo of BSP (17), independent Rajesh Yadav (15), Dinesh Pal of RLD (11), Vijay Kumar of SP (11), Khalid Azim alias Ashraf of SP (8), Shashikant Rajbhar of BJP (6), Gulab Chand of Congress (6) and Arjun of Congress (6).